2018 Technology Testing


In-Lake Technology HABs Mitigation Experiment for Owasco Lake

The Owasco Watershed Lake Association (OWLA) began a months long experimental study to determine if several types of technology could help mitigate harmful algal blooms that have plagued the lake in recent years. This project is the first of it’s kind in New York State and we cannot forecast the results until the data is collected.

The objectives of this study is to help determine if the use of ultrasound and aerator devices disrupt and/or reduce the localized development of Harmful Algal Blooms (cyanobacteria) in Owasco Lake and add to the scientific understanding of the cyanobacteria blooms and toxins they often release. This is our first attempt to do any mitigation in the lake itself.

This is a joint effort by Dr. John Halfman of the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges (FLI/HWS), the Owasco Lake Water Quality Management Council (OLWQMC), the Owasco Watershed Lake Association (OWLA), the New York State DEC and lakefront property owners.

There were more lakefront property volunteers than equipment, so Dr. Halfman was able to select the best sites for the research. The sites are mostly located on the northeast side of the lake where HABs have been frequently verified. Aerators or ultrasound buoys have been placed at eight volunteer locations around Owasco Lake. Three other lakeside sites are being used as control locations.

This study began on 7/30/18 and will run through 9/24/18. During this period Dr. John Halfman will be visiting all site locations on a weekly basis to take water samples and drone photographs. The samples will include: Plankton tow sample, 3 Fluoroprobe samples, and a raw water sample (for other in-house analyses).

The eleven Owasco lakeside property owners are integral to this study. In addition to installing and monitoring the devices, all volunteers have the responsibility of taking daily pictures of their sites and emailing them to a collection point. These pictures will support Dr. Halfman’s study by providing visual documentation of the presence or absence of HABs.


Bubbler Example


Sonic Bouy Example




The aerators use an underwater diffuser unit attached to an on-shore compressor to move air up the water column in specific areas. The aeration seeks to reduce the amount of algae by introducing more oxygen into the water, causing beneficial bacteria to consume extra nutrients as well as moving the water around to reduce stagnation.

Ultrasound buoys are placed at the Owasco Yacht Club and Martin Point Swimming Area. The technology works by using sound waves to specifically target the gas vesicles used by cyanobacteria to float to the water’s surface without damaging the cell wall, causing them to sink to the lake bottom where they die without releasing their toxins.

Both the aerators and ultrasound buoys were chosen over other options because they were determined to be safe for humans as well as fish, animals and plant life in the lake.

We caution against assuming that this technology will act as a cure-all, since there is much more to be done to stop the nutrient flow into the lake from the watershed which will likely take years to manifest. The in-lake technology could provide some mitigation in the short term. If the technology proves successful, OWLA may pursue making the technology available for private homeowners or apply for grant funding for more widespread implementations.

It would not be feasible for the technology to be placed across the entire lake, but select pieces could be used at areas of high priority, such as near the city of Auburn’s drinking water intake pipes or the beach around Emerson Park.

Dr. Halfman will provide a bi-weekly report of his findings and a final report based on the review and analysis of all data at the end of the season. It is our intention to post these reports on this website. The effectiveness of these technologies will be reviewed and decisions made whether to seek further funding to continue these efforts into subsequent years.

What can you do to HELP?

Protecting Owasco Lake is essential to the maintenance of our community character and the improvement of our economic future. We encourage everyone to help the Owasco Watershed Lake Association personally and/or financially. By this commitment you will help keep Owasco Lake clean and safe.